About 33,000 heart attack deaths in the last 10 years could have been prevented if doctors followed the National Health Service (NHS) guidelines for correct patient treatment.
A non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) heart attack is a type of heart condition wherein the blood flow is not cut off entirely. Rather, it becomes limited.
According to the guidelines set by the NHS, NSTEMI heart attack patients should be given statins, a type of drug that lowers fat levels in the blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides.
The NHS guidelines also specified that NSTEMI heart attack patients should adopt an exercise regimen, stop smoking or take anti-clotting medications.
Unfortunately, recent research found that almost 9 out of 10 NSTEMI heart attack patients do not receive such interventions set by the NHS. This puts the patients at risk of having another heart attack in the future.
In particular, out of the 13 recommended treatments, the most frequently missed NHS intervention guidelines were the prescription of anti-clotting medications, dietary and non-smoking advice and the need for coronary angiography, which is a test that checks on the coronary arteries with the use of x-ray and dye.
The study also found that these patients who didn't get the cardiac rehabilitation, statin prescriptions, coronary angiogram and non-smoking advice had the highest risk of death.
The team of researchers from the British Heart Foundation, University College London and the University of Leeds who conducted the study said many medical professionals are missing out on the opportunities to help avoid thousands of heart attack-related deaths annually.
"What we've highlighted here is the unacceptable deficit in the care being given to people after they've had an NSTEMI heart attack," said lead researcher and associate professor Dr. Chris Gale from the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine.
"We calculate that roughly one patient per month per hospital in England and Wales is losing their life as a direct consequence of this deficit."
For the study, the research team analyzed 389,057 NSTEMI heart attack cases in 247 hospitals across Wales and England. The cases were documented starting Jan. 1, 2003 all the way to Jan. 30, 2013.
Alarmingly, they found that nearly 87 percent of the patients didn't get at least one of the NHS-recommended interventions that should have been provided by doctors.
The findings were released in the peer-reviewed journal European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care on May 3.